If you are a meat lover, please dont tune out yet. Just because you love your meat doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a good, clean, vegan dish. Sometimes, even the sturdiest of systems needs a reset. And for those occasions, or to serve to your vegetarian and vegan friends, I have just the dish: Vegan “meatballs” with spicy roasted eggplants dip. It’s to die for.
OK, maybe that was a poor choice of words.
After two weeks traveling, and two more weeks to be back home, I have subjected my digestive system to abuses that it rarely takes kindly. We all do that when we travel. For the last two days I’ve had to give it a break, I would like to get back home in one piece.
One thing you’ll need to know if are coming to Denmark is that this is a cuisine that can be quite heavy on one’s system, especially to those of us who are not used to eating a lot of dairy and animal fat.
Cheese is big in Europe, we all know that. But Northern Europeans, especially Scandinavians, are the world’s largest population of lactose-tolerant people (it’s ironic that its actually lactose intolerant people who make up the vast majority of humanity). Dairy is a huge part of the Danish diet. And why not? They can digest dairy past weaning and into old age.
Since I entered my 30s I have been mildly to moderately lactose-intolerant. I love cheese, and I can tolerate a bit, a bit more if I take it with lactase pills. But at some point I pass my body’s ability to tolerate dairy.
I can very easily reach this point by 11 AM here. And I did.
I’ll spare you the details. You can thank me now.
Luckily we are not talking Viking-times winter here, there are vegetables aplenty in today’s Denmark. So back to my beloved veggies, at least for a while.
So, give these delicious balls a try, they are tasty, crunchy, filling, and the dip is to die for.
Maybe I should stop using that expression.
- 3 slices of whole-wheat bread
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1 small white onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of chickpeas , boiled soft
- 1 cup of lentils , boiled soft
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 large eggplant (6" or 13 cm aprox), or equivalent
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 small red onion , chopped
- 1 bell pepper , chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes , chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic , sliced
- A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 hot pepper of your preference
Pulse the bread in the food processor until it has the texture of coarse sugar. Reserve.
Mix bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, pepper and salt and pulse in the food processor until you obtain a coarse paste. Reserve.
Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor just long enough to break them into smaller pieces (a quarter of their original size).
Mix chickpeas, lentils, breadcrumbs and seasoning paste from step 2. Mix well. Taste and add salt to taste if you find it necessary.
Make the paste into balls of about 1 1/2" in diameter. Reserve.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
Pan fry balls long enough to turn brown on the outside. Rest on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Put the eggplants directly on the fire in your stove. When the side on the fire has blackened turn until the whole eggplant has turned black.
Immediately soak in cold water. Using a spoon, remove and discard the peel.
Heat oil over low heat in a skillet or pan. Cook and stir the onions until they turn translucent.
Stir in bell pepper, tomatoes and garlic. Cook and stir for a minute.
Add the eggplants, nutmeg and cilantro and stir until the cilantro wilts. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature
Season with pepper and salt to taste.
Place in a food processor. Add hot pepper to taste.
Serve balls with the dip.